One of the most important parts of your SEO strategy is link building, the process of gaining inbound links to your website. Links are like the internet’s currency. The more valuable links that point to your website, the better it will rank. These inbound links are called backlinks. When it comes to SEO, there are few things that can make as much of a difference as the number and quality of backlinks your website has. Links help Google establish a website’s popularity and also give it important information about how pages connect to one another.
The process of gaining backlinks can be extremely labor-intensive and may take quite a bit of time but is necessary for a successful SEO strategy. Even if you build an excellent website and do everything else correctly for SEO, your website will gain popularity much faster with backlinks. Backlinks tell Google where your website ranks in terms of popularity, relevancy, and integrity, which are the three components Google uses to prioritize websites on search results pages.
So how do you create backlinks?
The most valuable backlinks come from credible and popular websites that already rank highly. If a popular, trusted website links to your website, it increases your integrity and popularity in the eyes of Google’s algorithm. Think of it like this: When relevant and reputable sites link to your site, their credibility is rubbed off on you.
When seeking opportunities to build links, look for popular, credible, and relevant sites. Google values links from sites that are related to each other in subject matter much more than those that are not related. If you run a physical therapy practice, a link from a medical website will be given much more value than a link from a recipe website. Even if the website doesn’t relate to your own, if the content surrounding the link is relevant, it will improve the value of that link. Things like news sites may not specialize in content relevant to your business, yet their links can still be extremely valuable.
SEO is all about outranking your competition and you will need to create more backlinks than your top competitor in order to outrank them. However, keep in mind that while the total number of backlinks your website has is important, what’s more important is the number of referring domains. In other words, how many separate domains link to your site? Each link you gain from a separate domain is generally more valuable than multiple links from the same domain.
Another valuable thing to understand about backlinks is how anchor text works. Anchor text is the text—a word or phrase—attached to a link, which tends to appear in underlined blue font you can click on (also known as a hyperlink). Google uses this text as well as the surrounding text to determine how relevant the link is, which is why you should choose this text carefully rather than hyperlinking the words “click here.”
Now that you understand how links work, how do you go about building them? How do you get links to your website on someone else’s website? While your backlinks will grow passively if you have a legitimate business, you won’t see the results you want just from sitting around and waiting for people to link to your site. A good link building strategy is proactive. Your digital marketing team should always be looking for opportunities to build links. Here are a few places to begin:
- Business directories. While there may be some cost involved to have your business listed, the reputable links and increased traffic should make up for the cost.
- Social media. All of your social media profiles should include a link to your website. Your YouTube page and other social media profiles should each provide a link back to your website.
- Interviews. Be a guest on someone’s blog or podcast and have them interview you. Not only will this help you gain more exposure, but the links will build your SEO.
- Press releases. If a media outlet picks up a press release about your business, they’ll link to your website, and news links tend to be strong. You should write press releases regularly about what’s new in your business.
- Job websites. When you post job opportunities on reputable job sites, include a link to your website.
- Review websites. Encouraging your clients or customers to post reviews on sites like Yelp helps you build links and also can help you convert prospects.
- Community media. Getting involved with your local community through charity work, sponsorship, or other activities will give you opportunities to gain links on community webpages, local news sites, social media, and more.
- Guest blogging. Reach out to relevant blogs and websites to see if you can write articles for them as an expert in your field, which will provide them with free content and you with a valuable link. Choose sites that are relevant to your business and reputable.
Another great way to look for opportunities to build links is to analyze your competitors’ backlinks. Run their websites through a link analysis tool such as Ahrefs or Semrush, and see if you can utilize some of the same links from these similar business types. Remember that to outrank your competitors, you need at least as many high-quality backlinks as they have.
While finding opportunities to build links takes a great deal of work, it makes an immense difference in the effectiveness of your SEO strategy. Link building will improve your SEO both through increased traffic to your website and indirectly through Google’s algorithm. The more proactive you are about building links and improving your SEO, the more popular your website will become, and you’ll gain more traffic organically. The increase in traffic will ultimately result in a higher return on your digital marketing investment by bringing you new customers or clients.